At least 21 dead, 20 missing in ‘unbelievable’ Tennessee flooding

(NEW YORK) — At least 21 people are dead and 20 others remain missing after middle Tennessee was hit with record rainfall Friday into Saturday morning.

The flooding in the region caused cars to be tossed like toys and houses ripped off their foundations, officials said.

A preliminary rainfall total of 17.02 inches was measured Saturday at McEwen, Tennessee, which would break the all-time 24-hour rainfall record for the southern U.S. state, according to the National Weather Service. The old record was 13.06 inches, recorded in Milan on Sept. 13, 1982.

Authorities, who said the numbers would be fluid throughout the search and rescue efforts, initially said 22 people died and up to 60 people were missing. But Grey Collier, public information officer for the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency, told ABC News on Sunday night that the current death toll from the flooding is 21, with approximately 20 others still unaccounted for.

Collier said the number of missing is drastically dropping now that cell service is slowly being re-established.

The Department of Public Safety in Waverly, Tennessee, said fatalities are not expected to increase significantly, according to Collier. The department posted a list of those who are potentially missing, but Collier said the list doesn’t include missing children.

Humphreys County, which includes the city of Waverly, is located along the Tennessee River, about 90 minutes west of Nashville.

“We have power outages all over the area,” Rob Edwards, chief deputy with the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, said. “Complicating issues is the loss of all cell phone coverage from the major carriers. They are bringing in portable units to assist with communications. We have lost a lot of roads both rural and major highways. In my 28 years, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

President Joe Biden expressed his “deepest condolences” for the victims of the flash flooding and their families during a press conference on Sunday evening. He said the federal government has reached out to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

“We’ll offer any assistance they need for this terrible moment,” Biden told reporters.

Lee was scheduled to give an update on the situation Sunday evening.

Flash flood watches were in effect across much of central Tennessee on Saturday.

The Hardin County Fire Department, which was deployed to assist nearby Humphreys County, called the destruction “unbelievable” and said search teams would return to the region on Sunday morning.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency warned people to avoid traveling in the counties of Humphreys, Houston, Dickson and Hickman.

The Red Cross said it had opened emergency shelters at the YMCA Dickson County in Dickson, the Fairfield Church of Christ in Centerville and at the Waverly Church of Christ and Waverly First Baptist Church in Waverly.

The latest forecast from the National Weather Service on Monday morning showed no significant rainfall expected in Tennessee over the next several days.

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